NH vigil planned against deportation of 'law-abiding' immigrants in U.S. illegally
MANCHESTER — Religious leaders in the state will host a interfaith prayer vigil Tuesday morning in front of the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester to show support for immigrant families who are facing the threat of deportation.
Arnie Alpert, the co-director of the American Friends Service Committee, said these are law-abiding people who live and work in the Granite State. People living in the U.S. illegally must make regular visits to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, and in the past, they were typically given instructions and told to come back in a set amount of time.
But Alpert said things are different now.
"What's happened since the Trump administration came into power is that the numbers of people that have been picked up and scheduled for deportation has increased dramatically," Alpert said.
He said these people are now living in fear of deportation.
He said before the current administration, courts could use prosecutorial discretion, meaning most immigrants would be allowed to stay in the state. Now, he said they are much more likely to be put in jail regardless whether they have children who were born here, relatives who are citizens, or who are working in their communities and paying taxes. Alpert said the people at risk are those "we'd like to have as our neighbors."
Alpert said there is a big difference between people in the U.S. illegally who are known to ICE and those who don't report, and are committing serious crimes, like drug trafficking.
For example, Alpert said, an undocumented Honduran man married to a American woman who is pregnant with his child was picked up recently after fishing without a license at Hampton Beach. Instead of being told he needs to purchase a fishing license, he was detained by ICE and threatened with deportation. Alpert said this type of injustice and separation of family is not the way the system should work.
Federal officials still have discretion as to who is deported and who can stay. More than 70 immigrants who are in the country illegally are expected to report Tuesday morning.
"We will be offering prayers for the people who are required to report to ICE and prayers that ICE will let them leave the building," Alpert said.
Alpert says the long-term goals are compassionate and humane immigration reform that would give productive members of society a path to legal status.
The peaceful vigil will take place from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in front of the Norris Cotton Federal Building on Chestnut Street in Manchester.